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Rep. Joe Garcia: To avoid airport & seaport delays, Congress should give customs more money


With federal budget cuts to blame for slow lines for passengers and cargo entering South Florida, U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia wants Congress to give Customs and Border Patrol Protection more money to speed things up.

In a letter he plans to send Thursday, Garcia will ask the House appropriations committee to "support strong funding levels" for customs officers.

"Arbitrary CBP cuts at our air and sea ports, in communities like Miami-Dade County, will only weaken our economy and destroy middle class jobs," wrote Garcia, a Miami Democrat.

Overtime pay for customs officers shrunk as part of the automatic federal budget cuts known as the sequester. In March, a busy month for South Florida tourism, that led to long waits for Miami International Airport for international passengers, many of whom missed their connecting flights and had to spend the night at the airport. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had warned about the coming understaffing in a February visit to MIA.

Cargo traffic has also been delayed -- including time-sensitive deliveries for South Florida's flower import industry, Garcia wrote.

Garcia plans to hold a news conference at the airport Thursday to draw attention to the problem and to his letter asking for support from other members of Congress. He will be joined by representatives from the airport, PortMiami, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Association of Floral Importers of Florida.

The headline of this blog post has been changed to remove the word "patrol."